- Made in Japan: Stories of Japanese-Filipino Children ed. by Rey Ventura
Made in Japan: Stories of Japanese-Filipino Children
Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2018. 128 pages.
The multicultural discourse in Japan takes a concrete form in the stories of hafus—Japanese slang for the English word "half," which refers to individuals of Japanese and foreign descent. While diversity is celebrated elsewhere, being hafu denotes a sense of ambivalence and ambiguity in Japan, especially in the case of Japanese Filipino children (JFCs), who were born to Filipina mothers and Japanese men in the 1990s to the mid-2000s. They are seen not only as [End Page 273] hafus but also as bearers of Japanese men's moral and social irresponsibility during the country's bubble years (roughly between 1985 and 1990), resulting in abandoned homes and fatherless children of Filipina migrants.
In the late 1980s Filipina migrants in Japan figured largely as entertainers, colloquially known in the Philippines as "Japayuki." The term peddles a pejorative connotation of a prostitute, which persisted in the image and imagining of Filipina women in Japan as both "victim and cunning scavenger" and "mothers of 'miscegenation'" (Nobue Suzuki, "Women Imagined, Women Imaging: Re/presentations of Filipinas in Japan since the 1980s," in Filipinos in Global Migrations: At Home in the World?, edited by Filomeno V. Aguilar, 176–206; Philippine Migration Research Network and the Philippine Social Science Council, 2002). While they have varied backgrounds, most of the so-called JFCs were not recorded in their fathers' certificate of family registry or koseki tohon, rendering them illegitimate under Japanese laws and ineligible for Japanese citizenship. More often than not and for various reasons, their parents' unions had ended in separation (as divorce is not legally recognized in the Philippines), leading their Japanese fathers to "abandon" them and compelling their mothers to raise them singlehandedly in the Philippines. The term "JFC" was coined to highlight these children's illegitimate status under the Japanese Nationality Law. Their rights to Japanese citizenship and recognition by their fathers became an advocacy of many nongovernmental organizations that were established specifically to assist them in the legal process of identifying their fathers and ensuring their inclusion in the koseki tohon.
Today, many of the former Japanese Filipino children have reached adulthood. What kinds of lives do they lead? Rey Ventura's Made in Japan: Stories of Japanese-Filipino Children offers an intimate glimpse of the lives of sixteen Japanese Filipinos who share their personal narratives of being Japanese and Filipino in the Philippines and in Japan. Ventura, who collated and edited the sixteen essays, is no stranger to the plight of Filipino migrants in Japan, having been an undocumented migrant in Yokohama for a year. His experience brought him close to the company of other Filipino migrants who worked in Japan as factory workers and entertainers, as recorded in his own account, Underground in Japan (Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1992; Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006).
The book is a collection of essays written for the twentieth anniversary of the Citizen's Network for Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC Network), [End Page 274] which has been instrumental in identifying and reconnecting JFCs with their Japanese fathers. The title Made in Japan is a play on the idea of being "imported": whereas mixed nationality in the Philippines is celebrated as a marker of elevated social class, in Japan the JFCs' status of being "imported" forms the crux of the sociocultural and economic discrimination they face whenever they engage with their Japaneseness.
The book explores the theme "Who am I?" (xiii), and the individual essays of the sixteen authors reveal the complexities of being a Japanese Filipino child. Akiko Hayashi's "A Glimpse of My Dad" narrates how at a young age she faced emotional and psychological issues in relation to her coming from a "broken family" and taking care of her depressed mother. Takashi Ota's "Killing Time and Midnight Kisses" reminisces about the author's childhood years of spending the night in the dressing rooms of Japanese entertainment pubs, or omise, while waiting for his mother to finish her night job. Ken Ishikawa's...